TORONTO – The racist killer of a Muslim family in London, Ontario has had terrorism charges filed against the accused in what police have called a targeted attack on Muslims.
Nathaniel Veltman was already facing first-degree and attempted murder charges in the killing of four members of the Muslim family out on a walk Sunday morning and attempting to kill a fifth member who survived. New charges alleging the attack was an act of terrorism were unveiled Monday.
Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh told the court the deputy director of public prosecutions had approved charges last Wednesday alleging the killings constituted terrorist activity, reported Global News.
The attempted murder is also being prosecuted as terrorism, she said.
The development came after the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team was brought in to assist with the investigation into the June 6 vehicle ramming.
National security law expert Prof. Leah West said the additional charges of “murder-terrorist activity” were appropriate given what is known of the attack.
“That makes the most sense,” said West, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.
A spokesperson for the victims’ family said they were following the news of the terrorism charges, but their main concern was the 9-year-old survivor, who has now been released from hospital.
Saboor Khan said the family hoped the new charges would help address Islamophobia and demonstrate that the justice system did not tolerate hate crimes.
It is the third time murder-terrorist activity charges have been laid following recent attacks in Ontario.
The same charge was used in February 2020 against an alleged supporter of the so-called Islamic State accused of killing a Toronto woman with a hammer.
The terrorism charges place an additional burden on prosecutors, who will have to prove not only that Veltman committed the killings, but that his motive was terrorism.
That means making the case that his intention was to intimidate a segment of the population “for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause.”
But West said while that will complicate the prosecution, it is in the public interest to prosecute acts of terrorism as terrorism.